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Recognizing the physicians battling COVID-19 on this Doctors’ Day
Dr. Simerpreet Sandhanwalia is an Emergency Department physician at Hamilton Health Sciences
April 30, 2021

Recognizing the physicians battling COVID-19 on this Doctors’ Day

HAMILTON, ON – The COVID-19 pandemic has raged for more than a year and the third wave has drastically increased hospitalizations. The healthcare professionals who care for the most vulnerable and sick in our hospitals have been fighting this battle non-stop. One group on the frontlines is physicians, and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) are taking the opportunity to pause and recognize them this Doctors’ Day – May 1.

“This year has been full of challenges, and has taken a toll on the lives of our patients, their families and our team,” says Rob MacIsaac, President and CEO of HHS. “Physicians have been working tirelessly to provide necessary care – in many cases for weeks without a break. I want to express my sincerest gratitude to HHS physicians for their extraordinary contributions to our hospitals and our community.”

Both HHS and SJHH have increased their ICU bed count in recent weeks. When an ICU bed is added to the complement of existing beds, it has to go somewhere and it needs specialized skills to operate it.

And even before patients are admitted to an ICU, many come through the doors of the Emergency Department (ED). On a typical day, this area is full and busy – COVID-19 adds another layer of hectic.

“In the Emergency room everyday we see patients struggling with not only COVID-19, but other illnesses that many delayed treatment for as they were afraid to seek help,” says HHS ED physician, Dr. Simerpreet Sandhanwalia. “Together with my courageous colleagues we have been working tirelessly together to provide patients with the best and most compassionate care possible, despite being both mentally and physically exhausted.”

Physicians work closely with other healthcare professionals and team members to care for patients on a daily basis to help defeat COVID-19. These professionals work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in stressful and emotionally draining situations.

“The third wave of COVID-19 has presented physicians across our hospital with unprecedented challenges, including treating younger patients in medical distress, and those deteriorating at a more rapid rate than in previous waves,” says Melissa Farrell, President of SJHH. “In addition to developing new models of patient care amid the pressures of pandemic, our physicians have taken the lead on innovative research and educational opportunities so that together, as a community, we can curb COVID-19. On Doctors’ Day, and every day, we thank them for their contributions.”

Dr. Steven Wong, a General Internist on the COVID-19 unit at SJHH, can attest to the new challenges healthcare workers are facing during the third wave. “In internal medicine, we don’t see young patients, and now that’s all we’re seeing on the COVID-19 unit,” Dr. Wong says. “It’s not just people in their 60s and 50s. Now, it’s people in their 40s, 30s, and 20s – and they’re really sick. It’s a completely new disease, and a whole new problem to solve.”

He is imploring that people of all ages follow public health guidelines, in addition to getting the first vaccine they are offered.

“Even if you’re young, you have to take this seriously,” he says. “You’re doing it to protect yourself, but also someone else in your age group that could get sick and end up in hospital.”

As the pandemic’s third wave continues, physicians and other healthcare workers have emphasized that:

  • Our teams and resources are being stretched and tested like never before.
  • Hospitals across Ontario are working diligently to create much needed critical care capacity
  • Health care is a provincial resource and we are doing everything we can to care for all Ontarians who need it.
  • Please register and get vaccinated as soon as you become eligible to do so, abide by public health restrictions that are in place, and continue to practise masking and physical distancing.

Patients should continue to attend their appointments. Patients will be contacted directly by their surgeon or a member of their care team if there is a change to their planned care. Our hospitals remain open and safe for everyone who needs emergency care.

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Photos of Dr. Steven Wong, Internist on the COVID-19 unit at SJHH, can be found here.
A day in the life of Dr. Steven Wong on the COVID-19 unit can be found here.

Photos of Dr. Simerpreet Sandhanwalia, HHS ED physician, can be found here.
A message from Dr. Sandhanwalia on COVID-19 can be found here.
A letter from Dr. Sandhanwalia can also be found here.

For more information, please contact:

Wendy Stewart
Communications & Public Affairs
Hamilton Health Sciences

Elaine Mitropoulos
Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton